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Action needed to fight antimicrobial resistance, Australia

With the increasing mobility of people, animals and goods around the world, nations need to do more to protect their citizens from antimicrobial resistance, write the authors of an Editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Professor John Turnidge (Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care), Professor Chris Baggoley (Chief Medical Officer of Australia), and colleagues from Department of Agriculture and Water Resources write that alarm bells about antimicrobial resistance have been ringing for some time, but key international organisations have only recently now addressed the problem in a coordinated manner.

“Antimicrobial resistance is now a major item on the agendas of the World Health Assembly and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and has been revived as a major work focus for both the World Health Organization and the OIE,” they wrote.

Many Australians don’t understand what antibiotics can and cannot do or what resistance is; this understanding is also sometimes lacking among prescribers, the authors note.

“Although almost all doctors and veterinarians prescribe antimicrobials as part of their daily practice, few are aware of rational prescribing principles and their benefits.”

Australia’s First National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy, released in 2015, was the first strategy in this country to fully embrace the concept that antimicrobial resistance has no borders.

The strategy incorporates a range of coordinated measures, including increasing awareness and understanding of the problem, implementing more effective antimicrobial stewardship, improved surveillance and infection prevention and control, and formulating a national research agenda.

“Developing partnerships with countries across the world will assist Australia to learn from international best practice, avoid duplication of effort, contribute to public health outcomes in our region, and provide early warning of emerging threats,” the authors advised.

Without clear governance from all Australian governments, ministries and agencies, however, none of the other objectives of the strategy can be achieved, the authors argued.

The authors write that it is essential to have a coordinated approach if Australia is to be protected from antimicrobial resistance.

“All prescribers and users of antimicrobials have a responsibility to preserve their long term effectiveness and to protect the health of their nation’s citizens, animals and ecosystems,” they concluded.